Guy Joseph: Govern­ment will deal with St Jude Money Fi­asco

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

At a press con­fer­ence hosted on Thurs­day 5 Oc­to­ber, 2017 Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet ad­dressed the me­dia and na­tion about the press­ing is­sues af­fect­ing the coun­try. St Jude Hospi­tal was in­evitably one of those.

“St Jude is a very sad story,” Chas­tanet be­gan. “Here we are seven years later with $118 mil­lion dol­lars. So we have to ask our­selves: How did we get here?” A sim­ple ques­tion that ev­ery­one ex­cept the Saint Lu­cia Labour Party has been ask­ing but no one has yet been made ac­count­able. Chas­tanet did, how­ever, im­ply that this ques­tion would be an­swered, even­tu­ally. “There was an au­dit that was done - a phys­i­cal au­dit - and it clearly showed where ma­jor mis­takes were made. So we've now hired a law firm that is pre­par­ing cases against those in­di­vid­u­als and the com­pa­nies. We're also hir­ing a foren­sic au­dit­ing firm who will be able to track the ex­pen­di­tures, where they came from, who gave author­ity to be able to help sup­port that par­tic­u­lar case.”

The prime min­is­ter did not pro­vide any in­sight as to when the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be com­pleted.

Chas­tanet also re­vealed that no de­ci­sion had been made yet con­cern­ing where St Jude's next home will be. The sit­u­a­tion, the prime min­is­ter said, is a “cri­sis”. Gen­er­at­ing a thin wisp of hope for those lis­ten­ing, he in­de­pen­dently posed the ques­tion, “What are we go­ing to do about this cri­sis?”

The an­swer re­mains in­de­ter­mi­nate. Chas­tanet claims that on the grounds of the in­for­ma­tion he has so far re­ceived, it is now for the govern­ment to con­tinue to find the best op­tions avail­able.

“I've had ideas, my cabi­net has had ideas which I'm hop­ing over the next cou­ple of weeks we can come to some kind of con­clu­sion and make a pre­sen­ta­tion to the pub­lic of Saint Lu­cia about how we're go­ing to move for­ward,” he said.

Both the Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter Guy Joseph have at­tested to be beyond sat­is­fied with the ser­vices pro­vided by the staff of St Jude's, the lat­ter not­ing that it is his pre­ferred fa­cil­ity to re­ceive health care. Allen Chas­tanet did com­ment at the press con­fer­ence about St Jude's qual­ity of work de­spite the cir­cum­stances of “in­ad­e­quate” re­sources: “St Jude is run­ning in a fa­cil­ity that's not a pur­posely-built fa­cil­ity. It was a sta­dium and you go there for your­self and see the clean­li­ness, the ap­ti­tude.”

What he did not an­swer, how­ever, is an­other ques­tion he put out him­self: Are there things that we're go­ing to do now that we know are go­ing to be there for a lit­tle bit longer to make the sit­u­a­tion more com­fort­able in mov­ing for­ward?

Guy Joseph de­liv­ered the an­swer on Mon­day past dur­ing a pre-cabi­net meet­ing but not be­fore ex­plain­ing one more time why the blame for the state of the hospi­tal should not be laid on him. Min­is­ter Joseph re­it­er­ated, “It's not about an agenda; this fi­asco at St Jude was not caused by Guy Joseph. But ev­ery­body wants to make this a dis­cus­sion about Guy Joseph . . . Peo­ple need to move away from this and we need to deal with the re­al­ity.”

The min­is­ter then con­tin­ued to give an over­view of the num­ber of times the cost of ex­pen­di­ture for St Jude Hospi­tal had changed over the years, par­tic­u­larly un­der the Kenny An­thony ad­min­is­tra­tion. De­spite Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet's as­sur­ance of a proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Joseph did not fail to note in his dis­course, “By the time Doc­tor Kenny An­thony, who [was] the min­is­ter of fi­nance, who signed on ev­ery one of the di­rect awards for St Jude, we had spent $100 mil­lion.”

Af­ter be­ing asked in var­i­ous ways how the St Jude project will be ad­dressed, the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter said that some ma­jor re­pairs would take place at the Ge­orge Od­lum Sta­dium in the mean­time, par­tic­u­larly as it re­lated to elec­tri­cal and plumb­ing. He em­pha­sized, “That does not mean that we are fix­ing things to leave the peo­ple there in­def­i­nitely.

“I as­sure you that based on the dis­cus­sions with the prime min­is­ter . . . we are hop­ing that by the end of this month we can have some clear di­rec­tion and we can make some clear pro­nounce­ments as to what is go­ing to hap­pen and the time­lines that we ex­pect it to hap­pen.”

Fi­nally the ques­tion that's been on ev­ery­body's lips: “Where will the money come from this time for sta­dium re­pairs,?"

Guy Joseph had this to say: “When you have an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, you find a way to do it. So, the headache about the money, that's for the govern­ment to deal with.”

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